Centre, West Bengal’s spat over state’s handling of Covid-19 crisis widens | Top Developments

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An inter-ministerial central team (IMCT) visited Kolkata and Jalpaiguri earlier this week to inspect West Bengal government’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee interacting with sanitation workers in Kolkata on April 21

File photo from 2015 of a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Picture Courtesy: Twitter @BJPLive)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • West Bengal CM has claimed that the state has not received any Covid-19 testing kits from ICMR
  • Union Home Secretary alleged that the IMCT was not allowed to speak to healthcare workers
  • Chief Secretary asserted that the Audit Commission was formed as per ICMR’s advise

The war of words between the Centre and West Bengal over the novel coronavirus crisis continued on Friday. The latest flashpoint was over the actions of an Audit Committee appointed by the state government to classify novel coronavirus deaths. As of Friday, West Bengal has reported 514 cases of Covid-19.

Here are the latest developments in the spat between the Centre and the West Bengal government.

  • An inter-ministerial central team (IMCT) visited Kolkata and found discrepancies in the data about deceased Covid-19 patients compiled by an Audit Committee formed by the state government.
  • Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said that the state administration needs to cooperate with the Centre in the fight against Covid-19. In his response, Sinha claimed that the IMCT was provided with all support for its survey of Kolkata and Jalpaiguri.
  • In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that the IMCT arrived sooner without enough prior intimation. She also questioned why West Bengal was chosen for the IMCT’s assessment.
  • IMCT submitted its initial findings to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday. Following the submission, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha saying that the state administration had not allowed the IMCT to interact with healthcare workers on the ground. This was obstruction of the Centre’s orders under the Disaster Management Act, wrote Bhalla.
  • The IMCT also sent a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, asking him to explain the methodology used by the state’s Audit Committee to classify deaths as coronavirus-related or otherwise.
  • In his response, West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha on Friday released figures stating that 57 patients, who tested positive for Covid-19 in the state, have died. Only 18 of those deaths can be attributed to Covid-19 with the remaining 39 occurring due to pre-existing conditions or co-morbidity, Rajiva Sinha claimed.
  • On Thursday, the West Bengal government banned mobile phones in Covid-19 hospitals. Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said the decision was taken to protect patients from the germs mobile phones carry. This move came after Union Minister Babul Supriyo posted a video from an isolation ward in Kolkata’s MR Bangur nodal hospital. In the video, two dead bodies can be seen lying in the ward even as other patients are present in the same room.
  • West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on April 22 claimed that the state had received no Covid-19 testing kits from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). She further claimed that the Health Department ordered some kits which are now in circulation.
  • Union Minister Babul Supriyo also trained his guns on the West Bengal government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. He posted a video on Twitter showing mismanagement at the Uluberia sub-divisional Hospital in Howrah.
  • Over the last 24 hours, West Bengal has recorded 51 new cases of Covid-19 while the death toll in the state rose to 18 during the same period. Out of these new cases, 51 per cent have been reported from Kolkata which is now emerging as the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in West Bengal
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About the author: Sohom Das
Founder of Tuccho.

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